UNESCO, IUCN And RAMSAR recommendations reinforce Oceana’s proposal to protect Doñana marine area

Oceana proposes multiplying the protected marine area by 20 after identifying threatened species and habitats of ecological value.

Press Release Date: July 4, 2011

Location: Madrid


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International agencies back the expansion of the protected marine area and acknowledge the danger of the new Balboa refinery project.

Oceana applauds the recommendations made by UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR) to expand the marine area of Doñana National Park. This initiative is in line with Oceana’s position, who proposes multiplying the protected area by 20 after documenting habitats of ecological importance and species never before seen on the sea beds off the park coast.

“Oceana contacted the Spanish Government and the Regional Government of Andalucia to immediately begin the process to effectively expand Doñana to a strip between Mazagon and Rota. The threats suffered by this area and underwater documentation work we’ve completed prove that it’s necessary to expand the current coastal zone, currently less than 2 kilometers, to one between 8 and 20 meters, depending on the area. That’s why it’s so important for international organizations to supervise the park and support the expansion to protect and manage the marine area,” points out Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

For years, different conservation organizations have called for more protection for the Gulf of Cadiz, given this marine area’s importance. Its high level of productivity, due to the influence of the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, and its impressive sea beds, where Oceana has documented important habitats and species for conservation, make the marine area of Doñana an area that deserves the highest possible level of protection.

But the richness of these waters also makes them a target for exploitation. Thus, the overexploitation of resources, illegal fishing and destruction of fragile marine habitats threaten the integrity of these ecosystems and the sustainability of the activities that depend on them. Some of the most valuable habitats include tree coral forests (Dendrophyllia ramea), coralline formations and colonies of orange coral (Astroides calycularis), these last discovered by Oceana and of great importance because it’s the only coral species protected in Spain.

Doñana National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994. With their recommendation to expand the park’s marine area, the international organizations that watch over the area’s natural values echo the concerns expressed during January’s meeting of various social and conservation organizations.

These concerns include projects for new infrastructures like the Balbao Refinery in Extremadura, which would include a new oil pipeline coming from the sea to unload hydrocarbons, increasing the risk of spills. Another problem is dredging the Guadalquivir River to improve access to the port of Seville. International agencies are calling on the Ministry of the Environment to stop the project or subject it to extensive review.

Fact sheet: Human activities around Doñana’s marine area

Oceana’s Proposal. Report: Doñana and the Gulf of Cadiz (2010)